Oct 13

Can’t Turn Off Television When Cardinals Are Playing; Great Storylines In Final Four

Their streak is now six for victories in elimination games, tying a major league record. Both the Cardinals and Giants have been studies in resiliency during these playoffs, and wouldn’t you know it, they’ve done it with pitching, timely hitting and an emphasis on team.

That’s a formula that always works.

Both are fundamentally sound and are compelling examples of how the Mets should model themselves. Both have stars and a healthy payroll, but both have home grown talent and haven’t broken the bank to reach their levels of excellence. The NLCS should be a dandy and I’m betting seven games.

Not surprisingly, they are the last two World Series champions.

The Giants, who don’t have a great offense but the best pitching in the game, and the Cardinals, who simply know how to survive when it counts, are better stories than the Tigers or Yankees.

When I don’t have a dog in the fight, I root for close games and great story lines. Each team faced elimination and won on the road. The Giants’ main story is whether one of their aces, Tim Lincecum, can regain his form after being sent to the bullpen. The story enveloping around the Cardinals is their ability to defend their title after losing their manager, Tony La Russa, and franchise bat in Albert Pujols.

I wonder what Pujols is thinking these days as he counts his millions.

He probably has some demons and regrets, but they are miniscule compared to what’s haunting Alex Rodriguez. Frankly, I’m bored with the soap opera and all that swirls around the Yankees. They bid against themselves to give him over a quarter of a billion dollars, and he, who conceivably could be breaking down after steroid use, is but a shell of his former self. Don’t forget being torn down by age and injury. I don’t give a damn where he bats in the order.

The Yankees’ pitching has been superb, but their hitting has disappeared and it is annoying listening to their fans clogging up talk radio with their sense of entitlement and nipping at Joe Girardi. Then again, I guess I don’t have to tell you about annoying Yankee fans.

Considering their age and injuries this season, Girardi has done a great job getting the most from his team. He’s pressed all the right buttons so far.

The Tigers, meanwhile, have arguably the game’s best pitcher in Justin Verlander. Him against Chris Carpenter or Matt Cain could be a legendary match-up. Pitching duels in the World Series are always thrilling and intense. I was too young to enjoy Koufax-Ford, but I got to see Lolich-Gibson, Seaver-Palmer and Gooden-Clemens. The Smoltz-Morris duel in Game 7 of the 1991 Series might be one of the greatest games ever played.

The one-two hitting punch of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder isn’t Mantle-and-Maris, but it is the best in the majors. But, it isn’t enough to sustain me this October. Regardless of who comes out of the National League, I’ll go with them.




Oct 11

What Should Mets Learn From Playoff Teams?

So far, this has been a compelling playoffs with the possibility of all four series going to a deciding fifth game. Major League Baseball is thrilled, and hopefully this trend will continue in the League Championship Series and World Series.

That’s what baseball should be about.

Hopefully, the Mets are taking notes. Four of the teams in the playoffs – Oakland, Baltimore, Cincinnati and Washington – have payrolls less than the $100 million the Mets shelled out this year for the joy of finishing 14 games below .500.

Here’s what the playoff teams have that the Mets lack:

1) Pitching: Both starting and bullpen are vital to winning. Always has been, always will be. That’s why I get frustrated when I hear complaints about the Mets’ lack of power. Home runs are the great eraser and the Yankees proved that last night. But, they were in position to win because of pitching. Three games against the Orioles and their starters reached the eighth inning each time. Unheard of. All of the teams have solid pitching and a good bullpen. As I wrote earlier today, Baltimore’s Darren O’Day is making $1.35 million this year, so it can be done inexpensively. However, that requires an aggressive front office and superior scouting, two areas where the Mets need improvement.

2) Strong minor league base: It would be foolish to say each of these teams were built solely on their farm system. Detroit and the Yankees all acquired significant talent from the outside, but there is core home grown talent from all. Just look at Matt Wieters, Joey Votto, Matt Cain and Bryce Harper. I would have mentioned Stephen Strasburg, but the Nationals pulled him from the playoffs. It could bite them in the butt, and what if the Nationals never get back here? It is possible. That is why it was encouraging this summer when several times the Mets fielded a full home grown-lineup and why I am opposed conceptually to trading Ike Davis. The Mets have a home product who hit 32 homers this year. Those don’t come along often, and rarely for the Mets. Davis is a start, along with Jon Niese, Matt Harvey and Ruben Tejada, not to mention David Wright. Bolstering the farm system and improving the scouting are essential for long-term growth. Free-agent signings should be to complement what’s already there.

3) Strong catching: Wieters is clearly the catcher with the most upside in the group. Regardless of how Russell Martin has played in October, the idea of pursuing him is outlandish and it was a ridiculous idea in the first place. Obviously, a slow news day. Martin is too old and too expensive for a rebuilding team, and let’s not kid ourselves, that defines the Mets. I was initially optimistic about Josh Thole, but those feelings have waned. He’s not hit for average or power and his defense has regressed. And, let’s not blame R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball for it. Catching is an issue, but I don’t believe it is as high on the Mets’ priority list as adding outfielders and relievers.

4) Timely hitting: It doesn’t get more timely than what Raul Ibanez did last night. The Mets were clutch in the first half, but their hitting with runners in scoring position disappeared in the second half. It all fell on Wright after the All-Star break and he couldn’t handle the strain. Each of these teams has an offensive core, hitters that concern an opposing manager. After Wright, and at times Davis, who is frightening in the Mets’ lineup. Scott Hairston had a good season coming off the bench, as Ibanez did, but after hitting 20 homers for the first time he might be too expensive to bring back.

5) Home field advantage: So far, it hasn’t helped San Francisco and Cincinnati, but nonetheless each of the teams in the postseason had a winning record at home. The Mets can’t ever be a serious contender until they learn to use Citi Field as an advantage. I understand the Catch-22, that part of that advantage is having people in the stands. The Mets need to improve the first four before this will take root. When Citi Field opened the Mets were vocal in saying they would build around pitching and defense, so naturally the first thing they did was sign Jason Bay. That’s the final lesson I hope the Mets learn …

6) Have a plan: Where are the Mets headed? If they don’t bring back Wright and Dickey, then it is back to square one. The team is operating as if they have no money and that’s a discouraging sign. GM Sandy Alderson said the team had the resources to add at the trade deadline, but waited until the team had fallen out of contention before deciding it was too late. On one hand, the Mets are singing the praises of their young pitching, but on the other it is exploring trading Davis, and could not bring back Wright or Dickey. What gives?



Jul 09

La Russa Snubs Dickey For All-Star Start

Tony La Russa has always been noted for over thinking, and his reasoning for not starting the Mets’ R. A. Dickey probably falls into that category, too.

Word out of Kansas City is Matt Cain will go against Justin Verlander in tomorrow’s All-Star Game. All along the reports are an apprehension for using the knuckleballer with Buster Posey.

“Look, I want to start the game. Of course I do,” Dickey said Sunday. “I think any competitor would like to.”

La Russa’s thinking is faulty if he’s concerned about passed balls and wild pitches. They are potentially far more costly later in the game when your offense has less time to make up a run.

Cain and Posey are teammates, so that makes sense. If Dickey follows a power pitcher such as Cain to throw off the AL hitters, that also makes sense. But, if La Russa’s reasoning in fear, that makes no sense.

The official announcement is expected at a 1:30 p.m. ET news conference.
Jul 06

Reasons Why R.A. Dickey Should Start All-Star Game

There are numerous reasons why R.A. Dickey should start Tuesday’s All-Star Game in Kansas City, so it’s hard to understand Tony La Russa not naming him for the honor. He knows the rotation schedule of the other candidates, so what’s he waiting for? If he wants to screw with New York area fans, he’d start A.J. Burnett (9-2), right?

DICKEY: Should star All-Star Game (AP)

Here’s some of the reasons why he should start:

1. At 12-1 with a 2.40 ERA, he has the best record of any NL starter. Washington’s Gio Gonzalez (11-3), St. Louis’ Lance Lynn (11-4) – the obvious choice if La Russa was playing favorites – Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels (10-4) and San Francisco’s Matt Cain (9-3 and a no-hitter) are having the best seasons for a starter. But, Dickey’s recent run is of historic proportions. His recent ten-game winning streak is reminiscent of pitchers like Sandy Koufax, Tom Seaver and Bob Gibson.

2. La Russa’s worry about not having a catcher familiar with catching a knuckleball has some merit, but I’m not completely buying it. If he’s worried about a wild pitch or passed ball costing a run, wouldn’t it be better for that to happen in the first or second innings and not late in the game?

3. Dickey is clearly the pitching curiosity of the first half, in either league. Give the fans what they want. Isn’t that what the game is supposed to be about?

There’s not guarantee of how well Dickey will pitch Tuesday. Recent starts against the Yankees and Phillies have not been good, but he’s always long on guts and his story is both inspiring personable.

He’ll only be in for an inning or two, but it should be the first two.

Sep 22

Moving In The Fences Not Answer, Pitching Is


Silly me, I thought the object was to win games, not hit home runs.

Sandy Alderson is talking about altering the dimensions at Citi Field in an effort to boost the Mets’ paltry home run total, which is odd considering his background as a fundamentalist. You know, high on-base percentage, advance the runners and cut down on strikeouts.

When he took over his goal was to rebuild the Mets with pitching, speed and defense. Let’s not get teary eyed about Shea Stadium, either. Afterall, how many World Series have the Mets won in their history? Two, and both those teams were built on pitching.

David Wright is on-board with this because, well, afterall, he hasn’t hit for power in two years, but that’s more a product of the beaning by Matt Cain and a poor approach at the plate, not to mention being injured and missing two months this year.

Overall, the Mets have hit 103 homers and given up 141. They’ve been outhomered 87-58 on the road and 54-45 at Citi Field. Those numbers are about right for a team below .500.

Before Alderson tinkers with the dimensions, he should consider what the Mets’ home run production might have been had Wright not missed two months, Ike Davis not been out for most of the season, Carlos Beltran not been traded and Jason Bay hit up to his contract. Take those four factors and the Mets would have closed the homer gap considerably.

But, are home runs really the issue?

The Mets are fifth in the National League with 686 runs scored, which is good enough to contend, but are 13th in runs given up with 712 (4.21 ERA).

Clearly, pitching is the problem, not a lack of power.

Home runs give a team an psychological jolt in that they know they can come back from a deficit, but the boost is even greater from the knowledge its pitching won’t put it in a hole.

It was funny to hear pitching coach Dan Warthen say moving in the fences would help his staff because it would force them to concentrate more. What a joke. If the Mets’ pitchers give up a lot of runs now, wait until the fences come in. Warthen is simply towing the party line. Have his pitchers walk fewer hitters and have him build a bullpen then he can talk. Until then, concentrate on Mike Pelfrey.

And, it’s not as if moving them in will enable the Mets to close the homer gap. The disparity would be roughly the same because the real disparity is in talent.

If the Mets want to do something, it ought to be to get better players, specifically pitchers. Moving in the fences is a gimmick, and teams don’t win with gimmicks. They win with talent.

Ways to Train:  Baseball Tips

If you’re looking to improve your batting average, slice that ERA in half, or simply enhance your ability to interact with your fellow teammates on the field, you’ll want to make sure you’re practicing the right things so that you don’t waste your time on nonsensical efforts.  Fielding, batting, and pitching all require very specific types of training, and while there is certainly overlap (and most players have to know how perform at least two of those 3 functions at any one time), there are also individual items to focus on for each as well.  Below, we’ll cover each of the three aforementioned areas, and what type of training approach you should take for each.


Swinging at a baseball flying toward your face at nearly 100 miles per hour seems like a fairly easy feat when you’re watching a Mets game or another team performing at the major league level.  That easiness only appears that way because you’re watching masters of batting at the plate, the peak of players available for the game.  For the typical baseball player, connecting the bat to the ball can be quite difficult to master, at least in a way that produces actual hits consistently over time.  The best way to practice batting is through repetition, so head over to the batting cages if you want to face pitch after pitch until your swinging improves.  Pitching machines come in a variety of speed settings, so you can surely find one that’ll pitch to you at the speed you need.


Unfortunately, they haven’t developed a baseball batting machine that works quite as well as the pitching version yet, but catching a pitcher’s ball is easier for the average person that throwing a 95 mph fastball.  In order to practice your pitches, find someone who is competent at using a glove, and throw to that person over and over again.  Remember to also switch up your pitches so that you don’t become dominant using only one type of pitch.


This article doesn’t have the space to cover the many different fielding positions individually, but on the whole, there are some simple things to keep in mind when standing in the outfield or around the bases.  Make sure you’re using a glove that’s been broken in, first off, so that you’re comfortable using the glove and don’t feel limited in movement.  Since baseball fields don’t have roof cover and many day games are played, you’ll also want to practice fielding balls in direct sunlight, as often times you’ll have to face straight up in order to catch the ball.  So long as you can run and judge a ball accurately as you are moving towards it, you’ll be in good shape on the field.